February 20, 2017

Addressing 'anti-Semitism' just ain't gonna be a Trump priority

So that's it??? It looks like our new President just won't be explicitly acknowledging any kind of hatred targeting Jews, whether past or present. As with the prospect of releasing his tax returns, establishing a real blind trust or finally assuming a responsible, Presidential demeanor, calling anti-Semitism by its name probably won't be something he does during his tenure. If he were going to do so, last week's visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- the self-proclaimed "representative of the entire Jewish people" -- would have been the time...not that Netanyahu even seemed to care.

The White House belatedly issued a statement today condemning unspecified "actions", which in this case involved repeated bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country. No mention of Jews or anti-Semitism. Likewise, our Tweeter-in-Chief has yet to even mention last month's mosque massacre in Quebec, even with the recent visit by Canada's Prime Minister. 

On a base political level, it's clear President Trump attracts his strongest support from the so-called "Alt-Right", what we used to call the white supremacist movement. His chief White House strategist, Stephen Bannon, used to run Breitbart, which he proudly labeled "the platform for the Alt-Right." 

Trump's core demographic hates Jews, Muslims and Latinos, as well as the Catholic Church -- especially under Pope Francis. Trump shares their animosity toward the latter groups. He happens to love Jews, especially his daughter and her family, and he seems to genuinely love Israel. But he also clearly understands the political convenience of not condemning his most fanatical followers. By leaving out mention of Jews, even from his official statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day, that should be sufficient to appease those supporters -- it's not like they're going to defect to the Party of Obama. 

Aside from legitimizing -- by default -- acts of hate within the United States, Trump's silence also undercuts the global fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of hate and xenophobia. The United States has been the locomotive for this cause and still sets the tone for international discourse. And on a practical level, we won't have credibility admonishing other governments to do better. Hopefully, the work we have accomplished with key governments and multilateral institutions during the past 25 years has become part of the legal and political cultures, and of law enforcement protocols... but this won't be pretty.

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